Print

That Day is Past.

The terrible events of the last five years in South Africa have left us silent. There is undoubtedly a score laid against us on this matter, Dutch and English South Africans alike; for the moment it is in abeyance; in fifty or a hundred years it will probably be presented for payment as other bills are, and the white man of Africa will have to settle it. It has been run up as heavily north of the Limpopo as south; and when our sons stand up to settle it, it will be Dutchmen and Englishmen together who have to pay for the sins of their fathers.

Such is the history of our fellow South Africans of Dutch extraction, who to-day cover South Africa from Capetown to the Limpopo. In the Cape Colony, and increasingly in the two Republics, are found enormous numbers of cultured and polished Dutch-descended South Africans, using English as their daily form of speech, and in no way distinguishable from the rest of the nineteenth-century Europeans. Our most noted judges, our most eloquent lawyers, our most skilful physicians, are frequently men of this blood; the lists of the yearly examinations of our Cape University are largely filled with Dutch names, and women, as well as men, rank high in the order of merit. It would sometimes almost seem as if the long repose the people has had from the heated life of cities, with the large tax upon the nervous system, had sent them back to the world of intellectual occupations with more than the ordinary grasp of power. In many cases they go home to Europe to study, and doubtless their college life and English friendships bind Britain close to their hearts as to ours who are English born. The present State Attorney of the Transvaal is a man who has taken some of the highest honours Cambridge can bestow. Besides, there exist still our old simple farmers or Boers, found in the greatest perfection in the midland districts of the Colony, in the Transvaal and Free State, who constitute a large part of the virile backbone of South Africa. Clinging to their old seventeenth century faiths and manners, and speaking their African taal, they are yet tending to pass rapidly away, displaced by their own cultured modern children; but they still form a large and powerful body. Year by year the lines dividing the South Africans from their more lately arrived English-descent brothers are

Passing Away.

Love, not figuratively but literally, is obliterating the line of distinction; month by month, week by week, one might say hour by hour, men and women of the two races are meeting. In the Colony there are few families which have not their Dutch or English connections by marriage; in another generation the fusion will be complete. There will be no Dutchmen then and no Englishmen in South Africa, but only the great blended South African people of the future, speaking the English tongue, and holding in reverend memory its founders of the past, whether Dutch or English. Already, but for the sorrowful mistakes of the last years, the line of demarcation would have faded out of sight; external impediments may tend to delay it, but they can never prevent this fusion: we are one people. In thirty years' time the daughter of the man who landed yesterday in South Africa will carry at her heart the child of a de Villiers, and the son of the Cornish miner who lands this week will have given the name of her English grandmother to his daughter, whose mother was a le Roux. There will be nothing in forty years but the great blended race of Africans.

These South Africans, together with those of English descent, but who have been more than two generations in the country, and have had no — or very little — personal and intimate knowledge and intercourse with England, may be taken as standing on one side of us. They are before all things South Africans. They have — both Dutch and English — in many cases a deep and sincere affection for the English language, English institutions, and a sincere affection for England herself. They are grateful to her for her watch over their seas; and were a Russian fleet to appear in Table Bay to-morrow and attempt to land troops, they would fly as quickly from Dutch as English bullets. Neither Dutch nor English South Africans desire to see any other power installed in the place of England. Cultured Dutch and English Africans alike are fed on English literature, and England is their intellectual home. Even with our simplest Dutch-descent Africans the memories of

The Old Bitter Days

had almost faded, when the ghastly events, which are too well known to need referring to, awoke the old ache at the heart a few years ago. But even they would see quietly no other power standing in the place of England. "It is a strange thing," said a well-known Dutch South African to us twenty-one years ago, "that when I went to Europe to study I went to Holland, and loved the land and the people, but I felt a stranger; it was the same in Germany, the same in France. But when I landed in England I said, 'I am at home!'” That man was once a passionate lover of England, but he is now a heart-sore man. There have been representatives of England in South Africa who have been loved as dearly by the Dutch as by the English. When a few years ago there was a talk of Sir George Grey visiting South Africa on his way home from New Zealand to England, old grey-headed Dutchmen in the Free State expressed their resolve to take one more long train journey and go down to Capetown only once more to shake the hand of the old man who more than forty years before had been Governor of the Cape Colony. So deeply had a great Englishman, upholding the loftiest traditions of English justice and humanity, endeared himself to the hearts of South Africans. “God's Englishman “— not of the Stock Exchange and the Gatling gun, but of the great heart.

But great as is the bond between South Africans whether Dutch or English and England, caused by language, sentiments, interest and the noble record left by those large Englishmen who have laboured among us, the South Africans pure and simple, whether English or Dutch, cannot feel to England just as we do. Their material interest may bind them to England as much as it binds us, but that deep passion for her honour, the consciousness that she represents a large spiritual factor in our lives, which once gone nothing can replace for us; that her right doing is ours, and her wrong doing is also ours; that in a manner her flag does not represent anything we have an interest in, or even that we love; in a curious way it is ourselves. Therefore, while on our side we are connected with them by our affection for South Africa and our resolute desire for its good, our position remains not exactly as theirs. Our standpoint is at once broader and more impartial in dealing with South African questions in that we are bound by two-fold sympathies.

On the other hand of us who are at once South Africans and Englishmen stand in South Africa another body of individuals who are not South African in any sense, or only partially, but to whom from our peculiar position we also stand closely bound.

Ever since the time when England took over the Cape, there has been slowly entering the country a thin stream of new settlers, English mainly, but largely reinforced by people of other nationalities. Eighty years ago, in 1820, a comparatively large body of Englishmen arrived at once, and are known as the British Settlers. They settled at first mainly in Albany, and certain of their descendants are to-day, in some senses, almost as truly and typically South African as the older Dutch Settlers.

Their Love for Africa

is intense. Some years later a large body of Germans were brought to the Kingwilliamstown division of South Africa. They, too, became farmers, and their descendants are already true South Africans. For the rest, for years men continually dribbled in slowly and singly from other countries. Whether they came out in search of health, as clergymen, missionaries, or doctors, or in search of manual employment, or as farmers, they almost all became, or tended to become almost immediately, South Africans. They settled in the land permanently among people who were permanent inhabitants, they often married women born in South Africa, and their roots soon sank deeply into it. They brought us no new problem to South Africa. They have settled among us, living as we lived, sharing our lives and interests. It is said that it takes thirty years to make a South African, and in a manner this is true. Even now, more especially in times of stress or danger, it is easy to distinguish the African-born from the man of whatever race and however long in the country, who has been born here. But in the main these new comers have become South Africans with quickness and to an astonishing degree, and coming in in dribblets they were, so to speak, easily digested by South Africa. But during the last few years

A New Phenomenon has Started

up in South African life. The discovery of vast stores of mineral wealth in South Africa, more especially gold, has attracted suddenly to its shores a large population which is not and cannot, at least at once, be South African. This body is known under the name of the Uitlanders (literally "Foreigners").

Through a misfortune, and by no fault of its own, the mass of this gold has been discovered mainly along the Witwatersrand, within the territory of the Transvaal Republic, and more especially at the spot where the great mining camp of Johannesburg now stands, thus throwing upon the little Republic the main pressure of the new arrivals.

To those who know the great mining camps of Klondyke and Western America, it is perhaps not necessary to describe Johannesburg. Here are found that diverse and many-shaded body of humans, who appear wherever in the world gold is discovered. The Chinaman with his pigtail, the Indian Coolie, the manly Kaffir, and the Half-caste, all forms of dark and coloured folks are here and outnumber considerably the white. Nor is the white population less multifarious and complex. On first walking the streets, one has a strange sense of having left South Africa, and being merely in some cosmopolitan centre, which might be anywhere where all nations and colours gather round the yellow king. Russian Jews and Poles are here by thousands, seeking in South Africa the freedom from oppression that was denied that much-wronged race of men in their own birth-land; Cornish and Northumberland miners; working-men from all parts of the earth; French, German, and English tradesmen; while on the Stock Exchange men of every European nationality are found, though the Jew predominates. The American strangers are not larger in number, but are represented by perhaps the most cultured and enlightened class in the camp, the mining engineer and large importers of mining machinery being often of that race; our lawyers and doctors are of all nationalities, while in addition to all foreigners, there is a certain admixture of English and Dutch South Africans. In the course of a day one is brought into contact with men of every species. Your household servant may be a Kaffir, your washerwoman is a Half-caste, your butcher is a Hungarian, your baker English, the man who soles your boots a German, you buy your vegetables and fruit from an Indian Coolie, your coals from the Chinaman round the corner, your grocer is a Russian Jew, your dearest friend an American. This is an actual, and not an imaginary, description. Here are found the most noted prostitutes of Chicago, and that sad sisterhood created by the dislocation of our yet unco-ordinated civilisation, and known in Johannesburg under the name of Continental women, has thronged here in hundreds from Paris and the rest of Europe. Gambling, as in all mining camps, is rife; not merely men, but even women, put their money into the totalisator, and

A Low Fever of Anxiety

for chance wealth feeds on us. Crimes of violence are not unknown; but, if one may speak with authority who has known only one other great mining centre in its early condition, and whose information on this matter has therefore been gathered largely from books, Johannesburg compares favourably, and very favourably, with other large mining camps in the same stage of their existence. The life of culture and impersonal thought is largely and of necessity among a new and nomadic population absent; art and science are of necessity unrepresented; but a general alertness and keenness characterise our population. In the bulk of our miners and working-men, of our young men in banks and houses of business, we have a large mass of solid, intelligent, and invaluable social material which counter-balances that large mass of human flotsam and jetsam found in this, as in all other mining camps; while among our professional men and mining officials is found a large amount of the highest professional knowledge and efficiency. Happy would it be for the gallant little Transvaal Republic, and well for South Africa as a whole, if the bulk of this little human nature could become ours for ever, if they were here to stay with us, drink out of our cup, and sup out of our platter. But in most cases this is not so. The bulk of the population, and especially its most valuable and cultured elements, are here temporarily, as persons who go to Italy or the south of France for health or sunshine. Even when they go year after year, or buy villas and settle there for a time, they yet go to seek merely health and sunshine, not to strike root there; and as men go to Italy for health and sunshine, the bulk of us here come to seek gold or a temporary livelihood, and for nothing more. Even our miners and working men in Johannesburg, the most stable and possibly permanent element in our population, have, in many instances, their wives and families in Cornwall or elsewhere, and when they have them here they still think of the return home for good in after years, while with the wealthier classes this is practically universal. Not only have our leading mining engineers and the great speculators not the slightest intention of staying in Johannesburg permanently; most have their wives and families in England, America, or on the Continent, and project as soon as possible a retirement from business, and return to the fashionable circles of Europe or America. Even among South African born men the large majority of us intend returning to our own more lovely birth-places and homes in the Colony sooner or later; and the only element which will probably form any integral part of the South African nation of the future and become subject to the Transvaal Republic is the poorer, which, from the larger advantages for labour here, will be unable to return to its natural home.

The nomadic population of Johannesburg undoubtedly consists of men who are brave and loyal citizens in their own states and nations. To-morrow,

If America were in Danger,

probably almost every American citizen would troop back to her bosom, and spend not only life, but the wealth he had gained in South Africa from South African soil, in defending her. Every German would go home to the Fatherland; every Englishman, every Frenchman, would, as all brave men in the world's history have done, when the cry arises, "The birthland in danger!” The few Spaniards here trooped back to Spain as soon as the news of war arrived.

One of the most brilliant and able of English journalists (a man whose opinion on any subject touching his own land we would receive almost with the reverence accruing to the man who speaks of a subject he knows well and has studied with superior abilities; but who had been only a few months in our land, and, therefore, had not full grasp of either our people or our problems, which from their complexity and many-sidedness are subjects for a life's devotion), that man three and a-half years ago, when brave little Jameson — brave, however mistaken— was sent in to capture the mines of Johannesburg for his master, and when the great mixed population of Johannesburg, Germans and French, English and Jews, Arabs and Chinamen refused to arise and go to aid him; and when hundreds of Englishmen, Cornishmen and others, fled from Johannesburg, fearing that Jameson might arrive and cause a disturbance — said that Johannesburg would be known for ever in history by the name of Judasburg! and that the Cornish and other Englishmen who fled from the place were poltroons and cowards. But he was mistaken.

Johannesburg is not Judasburg,

and the Englishmen who fled were not poltroons. There ran in them blood as brave as any in England, and if to-morrow a hostile force attacked their birthland, those very Cornish miners and English working-men would die in the last ditch defending their land. Those men were strangers here; they came to earn the bread they could with difficulty win in their own land; they were friendly treated by South Africa and made money here; but were they bound to die in a foreign land for causes which they neither knew nor cared for?

One thing only can possibly justify war and the destruction of our fellows, to the enlightened and humane denizen of the nineteenth century; the unavoidable conviction that by no other means can we preserve our own life and freedom from a stronger power, or defend a weaker state or individual from a stronger. Nothing can even palliate it but so intense a conviction of a right so great to be maintained that we are willing, not merely to hire other men to fight and die for us, but to risk our own lives.

Parent Category: Books
Category: Schreiner: View of the situation
Hits: 1746